For bear hunters, few places in the world are more revered than Alaska’s Kodiak Island. Home to some of the world’s largest brown bears, hunters here must brave the elements and face the danger of one of the most powerful predators on earth. History announced on Monday that it will be premiering an eight-episode series documenting hunts on Kodiak Island, narrated by none other than Metallica’s lead vocalist James Hetfield.
The songwriter behind the heavy metal band may seem like a strange choice for the role, but Hetfield describes himself as an enthusiastic outdoorsman with a passion for hunting. The documentary, The Hunt, will follow a group of hunters as they travel across the Kodiak Archipelago in search of a quarry that can stand well over 10 feet tall and weigh beyond 1,500 pounds. Kodiak bears are considered the largest land predators in the world, although the majority of the meat in their diet is comprised of fish. Experts believe the subspecies evolved independently on the archipelago after the first brown bears arrived 12,000 years ago. The population on Kodiak Island is currently at a historic high with over 3,500 individuals—that adds up to about one bear per square mile.
Yet it does not make hunting easier or more comfortable. Of the 496 hunters lucky enough to draw a tag every year, the majority return home empty-handed. An average hunt lasts about 10 days and hunters are allowed only what supplies they can carry.
“While getting a bear is no easy task, most hunters still value time-honored traditions by hunting with bow-and-arrow, black powder single-shot rifles, and/or use the minimum amount of technology possible,” History stated in its press release. “Honoring the animal is paramount and taught to all hunters who come to the island. Hunters have an ethical and legal responsibility to strive for clean kills that is taken very seriously. There are pages of stringent regulations they must follow that ensure respect for the animal and the land.”
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports that hunters harvest about 180 bears every year and the vast majority are males. Hunters play a vital role in preserving the ecological balance on the island, and much of the funds gathered from selling permits goes back into habitat conservation. Removing large males also provides a form of much needed population control, as the bears will often kill cubs if food is scarce. Kodiak bears also account for about one human injury every other year on the island.
Despite being the most likely to meet a bear’s claws, no hunter has ever been killed on the island. This can be attributed to the seasoned guides that lead hunting parties to the archipelago. Over the past 75 years, Kodiak bears accounted for only one recorded human fatality.
The Hunt will premiere on History on Sunday, June 8 at 10PM ET/PT.